The bob’s your un­cle

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews -

WATCH­ING THIS gush­ing ha­giog­ra­phy, it is im­pos­si­ble not to feel a lit­tle be­mused when var­i­ous wags and pun­dits de­scribe su­per­star hair­dresser Vi­dal Sas­soon as the “mes­siah” or “Al­bert Ein­stein”. Where’s Monty Python in drag when you need them? But the rags-toriches tra­jec­tory of Sas­soon’s life and glit­ter­ing ca­reer cries out for ro­man­tic treat­ment and fab­u­lous hy­per­bole. He is a hair­dresser, you know. And be­sides, his up­bring was far from fab­u­lous hy­per­bole.

Born to Jewish im­mi­grants in Ham­mer­smith, Lon­don, the Sas­soon kids were so im­pov­er­ished that their mother was forced to leave them in an or­phan­age for seven years. Young Vi­dal

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soon showed prom­ise as a po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist; at 17 he was too young to sign up for the sec­ond World War, so he bus­ied him­self by break­ing up fas­cist meet­ings in east Lon­don. In 1948 he en­listed with the Is­raeli De­fence Forces and fought in the Arab-Is­raeli War.

Per­haps some­thing of the mil­i­tary man lin­gered on through Sas­soon’s Carn­aby Street glam­our years. His iconic geo­met­ric bobs and ad­her­ence to sa­lon-free styling and cuts are rooted in prac­ti­cal and pre­cise think­ing. His brand and em­pire, sim­i­larly, mar­ket the no­tion of a look that’s ready for any­thing; it’s sem­per fi in ker­atin.

We suspect there’s a weight­ier film to be made of all this than the frothy one de­liv­ered here. Too of­ten we’re left alone with the same ghastly fash­ion­istas who made The Septem­ber Is­sue such dis­taste­ful view­ing. Still, un­like that pic­ture and other re­cent fash­ion doc­u­men­taries (no­tably Valentino), Craig Teper’s film has the ad­van­tage of hav­ing a gen­uinely af­fa­ble, charis­matic hero.

It helps, too, that Sas­soon’s iconic dos are ev­ery bit as cin­e­matic as a girl and a gun. A world with­out the math­e­mat­i­cal bob, re­mem­ber, is a world with­out Uma Thur­man’s wig in Pulp Fic­tion.

For all the show busi­ness of the pre­sen­ta­tion and all the gasps over Sas­soon’s “achieve­ments” and “place in his­tory”, by the end we’re in­clined to be­lieve the style grotesques and lines like “it’s im­pos­si­ble to ex­ag­ger­ate the im­por­tance of Vi­dal Sas­soon”. At any rate, the film wouldn’t be nearly as much fun with­out them.

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